Monday, April 7, 2014

Yogi Berra, Rickey Henderson, Mike Tyson quotes

People say dumb things. I know I certainly do. But who am I? A guy with a blog…with a handful of books read by a handful of people? Not many people care when I say something stupid. But what if I was a famous athlete? Then people would take notice, and there would be a list of my dumbest quotes followed by an unknown author’s sarcastic comments (in italics). But I’m not a famous athlete like Yogi Berra, Rickey Henderson, and Mike Tyson. Instead I get to be the sarcastic blogger/author. Yogi Berra is famous for his less-than-cerebral quotes. Rickey Henderson is famous for his cockiness and third person references to go with an occasional mental gaffe. Mike Tyson is just lost Mike, trying to sound smarter than he really is. I’m giving you some of my favorites. Read and enjoy.
Yogi Berra quotes

1.       "A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore." (But a tax dollar is.)
2.       "Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical." (And the other third is hysterical.)
3.       "He hits from both sides of the plate. He's amphibious." (I think he was talking about Toad the Wet Sprocket.)
4.       "I always thought that record would stand until it was broken." (Yogi got one right occasionally.)
5.       "I'm not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did." (Five miles uphill, both ways, barefoot in the snow, against the wind.)
6.       "It's like deja vu all over again." (I swear I’ve read that line beforeagain.)
7.       "The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase." (Maybe if you took out the bathrobe, Yogi.)
8.       "You can observe a lot just by watching." (Along those same lines of thinking, you can lie a lot just by fishing.)
9.       "You should always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't come to yours." (And what would a funeral be without ghosts and zombies present?)
10.   "I never said most of the things I said." (I have to admit, it IS hard to believe you said some of these things.)

Rickey Henderson quotes

1.       In 1996, Henderson’s first season with San Diego, he boarded the team bus and was looking for a seat. Steve Finley said, “You have tenure, sit wherever you want.” Henderson looked at Finley and said, “Ten years? Ricky’s been playing at least 16, 17 years.” (Rickey was famous for talking to himself and referring to himself in the third person.)
2.       A reporter once asked Rickey if he talked to himself, “Do I talk to myself? No, I just remind myself of what I’m trying to do. You know, I never answer myself so how can I be talking to myself?”
3.       After a Seattle strikeout, the next batter heard him say as he returned to the dugout, "Don't worry, Rickey, you're still the best." (Since there’s no record of a self-response, he therefore wasn’t talking to himself.)
4.       A reporter asked Henderson if Ken Caminiti’s estimate that 50 percent of Major League players were taking steroids was accurate. His response was, “Well, Rickey’s not one of them, so that’s 49 percent right there.” (Since Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were taking them, does that make it 51%?)
5.       Rickey once asked a teammate how long it would take him to drive to the Dominican Republic. (I think it would take less time than if he were to drive to…say…Japan.)
6.       In the late 1980s, the Yankees sent Henderson a six-figure bonus check. After a few months passed, an internal audit revealed the check had not been cashed. Current Yankees GM Brian Cashman called Rickey and asked if there was a problem with the check. Henderson said, “I’m just waiting for the money market rates to go up.” (At least he intended to cash it eventually. I’m curious about the million dollar bonus check that I read he framed and hung on his wall.)
7.       When he was on the Yankees in the mid-1980s, Henderson told teammates that his condo had such a great view that he could see, “The Entire State Building.” (Even the back?)
8.       Advice from Rickey: "Do your stretching before you sleep. That way you wake up loose." (Rickey never once pulled a hamstring in his sleep.)
9.       Insight from Rickey: “In baseball you train the whole body, except for the hip and eyes.” (And the brain and tongue.)

Mike Tyson quotes

1.       “Another thing that freaks me out is time. Time is like a book. You have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It's just a cycle.” (The ever-repeating cycle of a timeline…and books?)
2.       “I ain't the same person I was when I bit that guy's ear off.” (Possibly he’s a vegan instead of a cannibal?)
3.       “It's good to know how to read, but it's dangerous to know how to read and not how to interpret what you're reading.” (Two signs I’ve seen that he would be wise to interpret are 1) Danger. Do not hold the wrong end of a chainsaw, and 2) Warning. No trespassing. Violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot again.)
4.       “I know how hard it is to be a woman, especially a black woman.” (This might partly explain his voice.)
5.       “I've lived places these guys can't defecate in.” (He’s lived nowhere?)
6.        “[He] called me a ‘rapist’ and a ‘recluse.’ I’m not a recluse.” (At least he’s honest.)
7.        “Being a champion opens lots of doors. I’d like to get a real estate license, maybe sell insurance.” (I’ve heard with a real estate license you can also teach elementary school and go into nursing.)
8.       “I guess I’m going to fade into Bolivian.” (A person can get quality soy, coffee, and coca beans in Bolivian).

If you enjoyed this installment of “The Red Pen,” check out some of my other entries or look up my novels Loving the Rain, Skeleton Key, Bulletproof, and Jumper.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cinderella, The Princess Bride, and the NCAA Tournament

It’s that time of year once again. It’s the NCAA tournament, which means it’s time for Cinderella stories to worm their way into our consciousness. References pop up everywhere…about as often as The Princess Bride quotes.
But are you really familiar with the Cinderella story? As Inigo Montoya would say, “Let me ’splain.” A young girl’s mother dies and her father re-marries and then disappears from her life while the step-mom and step-sisters treat her miserably. When she becomes an adult, she continues to unhappily serve the other lady-folks in the family. She’s miserable and weak. She has no backbone and doesn’t stand up for herself let alone strike out on her own to achieve her own goals and dreams. A rich prince invites everyone to “the big dance,” but Cinderella doesn’t go because her evil step-mom forbids it, and she can’t figure out a way to get there on her own. Then lo and behold a fairy shows up and gives her everything she needs to attend. Cinderella doesn’t do a thing to earn it, except to possibly go snag a pumpkin (she’s good at doing menial tasks). Once there, a dumb prince falls for her immediately, and when Cinderella flees, leaving a glass slipper, the apparently-drunken prince assumes that there’s only one foot in the entire kingdom that it’ll fit. He doesn’t recognize Cinderella because she’s back to being a spineless wimp, but the shoe fits, and he whisks her away to a happily-ever-after.

After considering the lovely Disney tale, I have a hard time understanding why the NCAA basketball tournament has so many teams described as “Cinderella stories.” As Miracle Max would say, “I’m not listening.” Mercer ended the season with a 27-9 record…14-4 in their conference to end up in first place, and they won the Atlantic Sun Tournament. Then they went on to beat the #3 seed, Duke. Harvard was 27-5…13-1 in their conference to end up in first place, and they won the Ivy League Tournament championship before defeating the #5 seeded University of Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament. Stephen F. Austin was 32-3…18-0 in their conference to end up in first place, and they won the Southland Conference championship before going on to beat the #5 seeded Virginia Commonwealth in the tournament. None of those teams was miserable and weak. They won championships. They had backbone. They stood up proudly and met their goals and dreams. They earned their way into the NCAA Tournament. There were no spineless wimps in the bunch. They worked hard. They played with confidence. No one gave them anything; they went out and earned their trip to the “The Big Dance.” They weren’t Cinderella stories. They were Ugly Duckling stories.

As the man in black would say, “Truly you [I] have a dizzying intellect.” Are you familiar with the Ugly Duckling story? As Inigo Montoya would say, “There is too much. Let me sum up.” Some eggs hatch and out come some birds, all of which think they are ducks…one of which doesn’t look much like a duck. He’s criticized. He’s looked down upon. Everyone disregards him, and he’s left to fight it out on his own. And fight he does. He survives an entire winter, emerging bigger and stronger than when he started. When he looks into his reflection in the spring, the Ugly Duckling is actually a beautiful swan. It’s March Madness! He’s in a pond with all the other swans, participating in the big swan dance on the water. He’s overcome the critics. He belongs with the other swans, regardless of the naysayers, because he was a swan just like them, and because he persevered through the long winter.

When those teams from small conferences made the NCAA tournament, no fairy godmother showed up and gave them a spot they didn’t deserve. No magic spell gave them something they didn’t have already. No weak, spineless players lacking dreams and ambitions to pursue them walked out on the floor. Players from teams like Mercer and Harvard and Stephen F. Austin did what they’d been doing the entire season. Regardless of how people all over the nation viewed them as Ugly Ducklings with no chance to win, they played together, winning another game in a long list of games won. They aren’t Cinderella stories because they earned their trip to the big dance. They fought for their goals, and they achieved another victory in a season full of victories—a season marked by championships. When Inigo Montoya was in his swordfight with the man in black, he asked, “Who are you?” The man in black responded, “No one of consequence. Get used to disappointment.” Inigo was good, but on that day, the man in black was better, and Inigo was left disappointed just like Duke, Cincinnati, and VCU.

Cinderella didn’t earn anything. She was given something she did nothing to work for. It was the Ugly Duckling that was scoffed at and looked down upon who wouldn’t quit and emerged victorious. So as Count Rugen would say about your Cinderella comparisons, “Stop saying that!” Mercer and Harvard and Stephen F. Austin aren’t Cinderella stories. Save your Cinderella comparisons for those without strength of character and who are given something that they didn’t earn, and give the Ugly Duckling teams their due.

Before I close, don’t you think I’d “make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts”?

Friday, January 31, 2014

Run-on Sentences

Okay, it’s time. It’s time to air a pet peeve. And what is it? It’s the run-on sentence. Why is it time to air my complaint? It’s because I find them in books. Novels. Yes, professional publications that people pay money for because they are interested in reading, expecting the writer to be an expert in his or her craft.

I need to take a huge, humble step backward before I continue. I am a writer too—as well as an English major, an English teacher, and a paid editor—and yet, I also am guilty of making mistakes. I paid a proofreader for Skeleton Key a couple of years ago. She was about 100 years old and wrote in a scratchy scrawl that I could barely read, but I had a train wreck as a major part of my plot. Part of the investigation centered on the train’s brakes. The lady made a note that I eventually deciphered to be “I think you spelled brakes wrong.” Well, I pulled out my document and did a word search for breaks and brakes. Of the fifteen uses of the word, I’d spelled it b-r-e-a-k-s seven times. My proofer found it once, but it was enough. I’m not perfect, and I don’t expect others to be perfect. Since, however, grammar and punctuation is part of our writing craft, writers ought to learn what run-on sentences are and learn the myriad ways of fixing them.

One more comment. As an editor, I’m not too bothered with sentence fragments. Often they’re intentional—for emphasis. Often they’re necessary for dialogue to sound natural. I usually leave them as is, but run-ons are simply a matter of punctuation. People don’t speak in run-on sentences because if I were to transcribe their words, I would put in the necessary punctuation. So here is a definition and a quick lesson on how to fix a run-on sentence.

This is the modified, Jeff LaFerney, teacherish definition of a run-on sentence:  Two (or more) complete sentences (independent clauses) that have been joined together without an appropriate conjunction (joining word) and/or an appropriate mark of punctuation.

These are run-on sentences:
1.   Cole Flint loved to ride on motorcycles he time traveled on a Kawasaki Ninja to the Smoky Mountains.
2.   Cole Flint loved to ride on motorcycles, he time traveled on a Kawasaki Ninja to the Smoky Mountains.

A comma does NOT fix a run-on.  So what can be done to fix this silly mistake?

1.   Use a period and a capital letter.  [Cole Flint loved to ride on motorcycles. He time traveled on a Kawasaki Ninja to the Smoky Mountains.]
2.   Use a semi-colon.  [Cole Flint loved to ride on motorcycles; he time traveled on a Kawasaki Ninja to the Smoky Mountains.]
3.   Use a comma and a coordinating conjunction.  [Cole Flint loved to ride on motorcycles, so he time traveled on a Kawasaki Ninja to the Smoky Mountains.] And, but, or, nor, for, yet, and so are coordinating conjunctions.
4.   Use a conjunctive adverb along with a semi-colon and a comma.  [Cole Flint loved to ride on motorcycles; therefore, he time traveled on a Kawasaki Ninja to the Smoky Mountains.] Accordingly, also, besides, consequently, conversely, finally, furthermore, hence, however, instead, likewise, meanwhile, moreover, nevertheless, nonetheless, otherwise, similarly, still, subsequently, therefore, and thus are examples of conjunctive adverbs.
5.   Make one of the sentences into a dependent clause (or subordinate clause) using a subordinating conjunction. [Because Cole Flint loved to ride on motorcycles, he time traveled on a Kawasaki Ninja to the Smoky Mountains.] You could make either sentence dependent (or subordinate).  [Cole Flint loved to ride on a Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle whenever he time traveled to the Smoky Mountains.] You could even change the order of the sentences when you connect them properly. [Cole Flint time traveled on a Kawasaki Ninja to the Smoky Mountains since he loved to ride on motorcycles.] After, although, as, because, before, if, lest, once, since, though, unless, until, when, whenever, whereas, wherever, and while are examples of subordinating conjunctions.
6.   Use a non-essential clause or an appositive. [Cole Flint, who loved to ride on motorcycles, time traveled on a Kawasaki Ninja to the Smoky Mountains.] Or [Cole Flint, a lover of motorcycles, time traveled on a Kawasaki Ninja to the Smoky Mountains.]
7.   Hook the sentences using a gerund phrase (-ing verbal that is used as a noun phrase). [Riding on motorcycles was so much fun that Cole Flint time traveled on a Kawasaki Ninja to the Smoky Mountains.] Or [Cole Flint loved time traveling on his Kawasaki Ninja to the Smoky Mountains.]

Before I bore you completely with all the other creative ways I can combine those two sentences, I’ll stop and make my final few points. A good writer needs to have a variety of sentences. Variety in style, length, and verb placement are all ways to make the reading more interesting. Often, therefore, more than one complete thought needs to be joined together. As a writer—an expert at the craft—there are many, many ways to do it without writing a run-on sentence. There are loads of awesome sites to inform you about dependent and independent clauses, conjunctions, semi-colons and commas, and run-on sentences; and writers should make good use of them. A good mechanic knows the parts of an engine and what they do to make the engine run efficiently. A good writer should know his or her craft in the same way. What are the parts and how do they work together to make efficient sentences? Personal pet peeve or not, I believe writers have a responsibility to their readers to produce good writing which surely includes no run-on sentences.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Common Spelling Errors

As a language arts teacher, I see misspellings so often, I think my brain has been damaged and my spelling skills are deteriorating. I ran into a gentleman a few days ago who read Loving the Rain, and he asked me point blank, “How do you spell rout when it applies to a blowout in a sporting event?” I replied, “r-o-u-t” and he said, “Correct. So why did you spell it r-o-u-t-e in your book?” I could only answer, “Because I’ve been a language arts teacher for 27 years and my brain is mush.”  He seemed to understand. However, I actually spell better than most people, and I happen to talk to people and read things they write quite often. Since I am the wielder of the “red pen” as my blog suggests, I’ve taken it upon myself to determine that there are quite a lot of words that people misspell, and it’s my duty to protect the sanctity of the dictionary and help out my fellow man. The following list of words is, well, absurd.

1.      Acrossed or acrosst instead of across. Like… I have acrossed to bear (don’t be afraid to groan at my feeble attempts at humor).
2.      Conversate instead of converse. Like… While I transmitate some ideas, you pay attentionate. Then, while you respondate, I’ll ignorate everything you say.
3.      Could of, would of, or should of instead of could’ve or would’ve or should’ve. I don’t know’ve and cannot think’ve spelling of with ’ve, so the opposite should be true as well.
4.      Duck tape instead of duct tape. Common sense should serve here. Did the inventor create his or her product to adhere to a duck or a duct? The guy or gal was sitting in the office of invention and said, “I need to keep those quacking ducks quiet (or is it quit or quite?). I think I’ll invent an adhesive for their bills—one that can also be used to fix everything known to mankind including furnace ducts.”
5.      Excetera or eck cetera instead of et cetera. Like…I expecially like to use excetera at the end of a sentence when I don’t know anything else, but I want people to think I do.
6.      Heighth instead of height.  Like… The breadth and width and length are all one-eighth of an inch too short, but the heighth (or is it hieghth?) is exactly one h too long.
7.      Interpretate instead of interpret. Like… I’m able to regurgitate spelling words and facilitate spelling lessons, but some day when I lose my mind, I may try to incapacitate the wrong-doer till (’til or until PLEASE) they finally interpretate my irritation.
8.      And while I’m at it, orientate and disorientate instead of orient and disorient are just as irritate-ing.
9.      I could care less instead of I couldn’t care less. Like… “Dude, I could care less. I care a little, you know, but if I chose to, I could care less. I’ve chosen to care a little, however—leaving room for less caring in the future.”
10.  Irregardless instead of regardless. Wikipedia (the Bible of word origins) says that this word probably came from Indiana unless it originated in South Carolina first. I swear it says that. Ir means “not” and less means “without” and regard means “concern,” so irregardless means “not without concern” which is the opposite of the intended meaning—irregardless of how it is used.
11.  Jewlery instead of jewelry.  Any jewlers out there? I asked Google to find me words that ended with lery while I tried to find a witty comment. A word that popped up was “jewellery.” I kid you not.
12.  Libary instead of library. The irony of this is that a library is filled with media that is filled with words, and libary isn’t one of them.
13.  Mute instead of moot. Like… I just made a mute point—“mute” as in that spelling is so dumb I’m speechless.
14.  Nother instead of other or another. Like… Let me make a whole nother point that we should learn to drop our a’s.  A person should be able to remain nonymous, and if we choose to not eat, we can be norexic. Maybe we could noint someone as king.
15.  Probly or probally or prolly instead of probably, and supposebly or supposelly instead of supposedly. I may have sevral diffrent theories about these spellings, but I’m too lazy to write them. (Yep, I’m still trying to drive you nuts).
16.  Sherbert instead of sherbet. I’m going to admit I hate saying “sherbet.” It feels wrong, but at least I know what its supposed to be (and since I just spelled it’s wrong, I should simply mention how much I detest people spelling you’re and they’re wrong also).
17.  Spade instead of spay. Like… He’s a good dog. I’d hate to hit him with a shovel.
18.  Speciality instead of specialty.  Now, using words such as extraterritoriality or inconsequentiality or bipotentiality might make a person sound like they have some intelligenciality, but speciality happens to make them sound silly.
19.  Volumptuous instead of voluptuous. Admittedly, some voluptuous women may be a bit lumpy, but that really is no excuse for this spelling.
20.  Wheelbarrel instead of wheelbarrow. Though barrow isn’t a common word, a barrel is a cask or keg or vat or drum. A keg on wheels is, well, a portable party, but it’s no way to do yardwork.

So there it is. Twenty words (if you don’t count my intentional blunders) for the general population to begin spelling correctly. That’s what “The Read Pin” is for, isn’t it?